Where: Around Downtown Victoria
A few years ago I read the book, Cool to be Kind, written by four Victoria 20-somethings about their sojourn across Canada doing good deeds. I was reminded of that book this week when I chose the next new thing I would accomplish for my A Year of New project, which was to commit random acts of kindness for strangers in Victoria.
It was my coworker who gave me the specific idea – when I told her I wanted to commit random acts of kindness for this week’s “thing” – of becoming a short-term ‘meter fairy’ who would plug diminishing or spent parking meters for people’s cars in downtown Victoria. I thought this was a great idea, but I knew it would mean that I would never get to see the reactions of the people I would help so I decided to do that and also commit some acts of kindness that would show me people’s reactions as well. I went to the bank and got a roll of quarters ($10 worth) and went to the lotto booth and got ten $1 lotto tickets, and then ‘went to town’ downtown Victoria. I plugged expired parking meters and meters that were just about to run out, and I gave away ten tickets to (hopefully) deserving strangers!
It was amazing.
I actually had expected some skepticism amongst the receivers of the lotto tickets, in a “what’s the catch?” sort of vein. I’m happy to report that absolutely no one looked scared or annoyed or suspicious when I approached them to commit my act of kindness. One lovely woman who was waiting for the bus when I approached her tried kindly to refuse the ticket, but it was because she wanted me to have the winnings myself. Then she said she would share the winnings with me if she won. I told her that that wasn’t the point of the exercise, so she pressed on that we would scratch the ticket together so that at least I could see what the result was. She used her “lucky penny” that she had just found, and won $2, and then promptly gave the ticket back to me to “give it to someone else that needs it more than I do.” And so I did.
Most everyone I gave a lotto ticket to was tremendously surprised and thankful, but the man sitting on the bank steps had a priceless reaction. This 60-something gentleman just looked at me and looked at me. As I walked away saying “I hope you win!” he never did come up with a verbal reaction. He was speechless! That was fun.
I must have plugged meters for 15-20 cars in about the span of an hour, and I enjoyed coming up to a woman who appeared to be searching for change to help her plug her meter with more money. “Are you searching for change?” I asked, to which she replied, “Yes!” with surprise. “How much do you need?” “I just need 20 minutes.” “There you go,” I replied, as I plugged her meter with two quarters. She was surprised and thrilled and I went on my way with a bit bigger of a smile on my face. She was the only person that I actually met that I plugged a meter for – I hope some of the anonymous people who received my help noticed that someone was looking out for them that day.
The one thing I forgot to mention to the people I met in person that day was that that should pass it on, so I think I’ll do that here. If reading this post has inspired you in some small way, try to think of a way you can pay it forward. A quarter here, a dollar there, a kind word … it really doesn’t take much to bring a smile to someone else’s face or help them out of a bit of a tight spot.
Thanks to the Starbucks barista, the dad pushing the stroller, the couple just getting out of their SUV, the two girls having coffee, the man sitting on the bank steps, the woman waiting for the bus, the elderly woman walking down the street, the reference desk library clerk, the man playing music in library square and a whole schwack of people parked in downtown Victoria on Tuesday for making my day. This little exercise reinforced for me that it is cool to be kind, and Victorians are a pretty great bunch to be kind to. Remember, pass it on!